An emotional reaction to a story on the 'unemotional'

14th September 2012 at 01:00

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Laura Warren and Joseph Lee for your brutal honesty and searing sensitivity ("How to educate a psychopath", 31 August). Your words soothed my soul. As a mother and a lecturer in childhood studies, I have, even in 2011, (much later than your quote of "as recently as 1995") found many prejudices around callous-unemotional behaviours. My daughter's teacher perpetuated the Freudian myth that "your mother fucks you up".

It is refreshing to explore how parents can feel when non-empathic behaviours are displayed and to create support that stops parental fear and isolation and to put strategies in place. Early intervention for families in all non-empathic conditions needs integrity and clarity in diagnosis and support to avoid perpetuation of non-empathic traits by parental withdrawal.

Parents as Partners needs to be embraced as a model as opposed to apportioning blame via outdated Freudian and Bowlbian ideas. I only found resolution and belief in my tenacity as a parent by showing a paediatrician a photo album and diaries that supported strong attachment, witness testimonies regarding my parenting and presenting an essay that showed clear understanding of attachment theories and autism.

Diagnosis became biased towards social class. If I were not informed and articulate, the label of insecure attachment would reign supreme. The damage done to my daughter via this wrong diagnosis was immense and almost irreparable.

My integrity as a parent was challenged in view of my daughter's non-empathy and only as a professional was I eventually heard, an appropriate diagnosis made and support put in place. It has been a 12-year battle. More work needs to be done to stop pussyfooting around esteem issues and branding behaviours as "things not right at home" or assuming Piagetian ideas of "he has yet to move on from egocentricity and decentre". This assumes that the child will grow into empathy naturally. Some won't.

We owe it to children to be truthful to them and their families about their behaviours and needs and embed self-awareness, community responsibility and teamwork, reflection and empowerment to self-govern our behaviours in the early years foundation stage and national curriculum. Incidentally, the paediatrician wrote me a letter apologising for "not being an expert on attachment disorder".

Angela Pearman, Lecturer in childhood studies, Kent.

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